Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) dealt a blow on Thursday to civilian forces by handing down rulings that effectively dissolved Parliament, returned legislative powers to the military and affirmed the legality of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq’s bid for presidency.Reactions:
In a much anticipated court session, the SCC deemed the Parliamentary Elections Law unconstitutional, under which an Islamist-dominated Parliament was elected earlier this year. The court based its ruling on the law’s failure to ensure independent and party candidates equal opportunities. While parties were allowed to run for all contested seats, the bid of independent parliamentary hopefuls was restricted to only one-third of the seats.
According to Hossam Issa, a law professor at Ain Shams University, the verdict means that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces shall assume legislative powers until Parliament is reelected.
For the generals, taking over parliamentary powers is not a new responsibility. Since Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011 until the People’s Assembly first convened in January 2012, the military authorities held both executive and legislative powers. During that period, they issued several laws that regulated the establishment of political parties and the exercise of political rights, and criminalized protests that would obstruct the economy.
Issa dropped a bombshell by arguing that the presidential election set for this weekend should be postponed until Parliament is reelected.
“According to the Constitutional Declaration, the parliamentary elections must precede the presidential election,” he told Egypt Independent.
However, SCC head Farouk Sultan told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the ruling would not affect the upcoming presidential runoff slated for Saturday and Sunday.
The fate of the newly formed Constituent Assembly, elected by Parliament on Tuesday and tasked with writing the new constitution, is also up in the air.
According to Rafaat Fouda, a constitutional law professor at Cairo University, the ruling would lead to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, because “it includes members of Parliament that has now been dissolved.”
Several secular parties had withdrawn from the Constituent Assembly on grounds that it is dominated by Islamists. The State Council is currently looking into the legality of the assembly.
Rulings by Egypt’s constitutional court that dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament and allow Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister to continue in the presidential race amount to “a complete coup,” a former presidential candidate said on Thursday.Barry Rubin notes:
In a statement on his Facebook page, Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh said that a government decree issued on Wednesday granting military police and intelligence services the power to detain civilians was part of the same action.
...Meanwhile, former chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog Mohammed ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter account that electing a president in the absence of a constitution and a parliament will bring a president with utmost dictatorship authorities.
In short, everything is confused and everything is a mess. All calculations are thrown to the wind. What this appears to be is a new military coup.
Yes, it is under legal cover, but nobody is going to see it as a group of judges — appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak, remember — looking deep into the law books and coming up with a carefully reasoned decision based on precedent. This will be seen by every Islamist — whether Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood — and by most of the liberals — who feel closer to the Islamists than to the government — as if the 2011 revolution has just been reversed.
Prediction: massive violence.